In 2012, when the list of pre-draft national invitees to Valley Ranch trickled out, it was dotted with a lot of familiar names: first-round types like David DeCastro, Michael Brockers, and Courtney Upshaw presented no surprise. Neither, really did players at Dallas' less fortified positions, such as cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Josh Norman. This accorded with the Cowboys strategy during these visits: a mixture of first-round targets and players across rounds at the team's needy positions.
And then, among the 30 names, there was one real surprise, a guy who hadn't been on anyone's radar: an undersized linebacker from tiny Idaho by the name of Korey Toomer. Neither a first-round talent nor a guy who filled a glaring need, Toomer had nevertheless impressed the team's personnel guys enough to warrant a visit to the Ranch. Perhaps it was his versatility: as a senior in 2011, Toomer started at linebacker and also saw late season action on offense as a fullback. Maybe it was his special teams ability: as a junior transfer he had been a special teams standout. Perhaps it was his resume: as a senior, he had been named Idaho's MVP.
Toomer ended up being drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 selection meeting by Seattle, and any Cowboys fans who had taken note of him soon dropped him from their radar. But is certainly appears that the team's scouting department didn't. During the frenzied cutting-and-adding-and cutting process as teams work to finalize their 53-man rosters in the week before the season opener, they picked up Toomer after he had cleared waivers, the day after he was released by Seattle, where he ad been oft praised and just as oft injured.
When the Cowboys picked him up, the acquisition was greeted favorably. In his post about the pick-up, our own O.C.C. noted that:
Pro Football Focus gave him a +1.3 grade for the two games, which is a better grade than any Cowboys linebacker outside of Kyle Wilber received this preseason.
Toomer has all the physical tools to play linebacker. At his pro day he ran a 4.53 forty and recorded a "Shazierian" 42-inch vertical to go with a blazing fast 4.00 20-yard shuttle.
In addition, Dallas' in-house super-scout Bryan Broaddus lauded Will McClay and his staff for picking up Toomer, bot on air and in print. Here is an extended excerpt from his scouting report on Toomer, published on the day after he became a Cowboys:
- Has some sideline-to-sideline range to his game. Shows some acceleration and a burst. Is able to carry that burst to the outside. Can close from the backside when the ball goes away from him.
- Will extend his hands and drop his hips to handle the blocker. Has some upper body power and snap in the way he plays. I can see some shock to his game. Can play on his feet when he makes contact with the blocker. Did not see snaps where he was knocked off balance. Can shed blockers and find the ball.
- Had no issues with the way that he tackled - he's physical in this area. Can wrap up and bring his man to the ground. Technique was good. Not a side or cloth tackler.
- Looked comfortable in his drops. Was able to carry tight ends off the line or when he was backed off the line. Showed discipline in the way he dropped in zone. Played aware. Did not see him out of position or struggling to maintain his position in-route.
- Toomer is smart in how he was reacting to what he was seeing. Was not fooled by play fakes -- his eyes took him to the ball.
After registering as a game-day inactive for the week one game against the 49ers, Toomer has been on the 46-man roster for weeks two and three...but he hasn't logged a single snap. Not on defense, nor on special teams, at which he is reportedly quite capable. And this at a position that was already a bit suspect, and quickly became more so, as two key starters, Justin Durant and Rolando McClain, suffered injuries, thinning an already depleted position group.
What gives? A side note before I proceed: I have taken to listening to "Talkin' Cowboys" on the Mothership as often as possible because it's become apparent that Broaddus and Mickey Spagnola are the two most well-connected journalists who cover the team. Every once in a while, one of them will drop an on-air piece of information that can't be found anywhere else. For Cowboys geeks like me, those nuggets are pure gold.
On "Talkin' Cowboys" yesterday, Broaddus dropped this nugget: he believes that there is a disagreement between the team's scouts and coaches regarding Toomer. The details are hazy, but the worst-case scenario is that the scouts (who clearly liked him in 2012, albeit for a 3-4 system) picked him up despite the coaches objections. The less controversial scenario is that the scouts believe he's ready to contribute now, and the coaches want him to receive a bit more seasoning.
Either way, it's a bit of disturbing news. A disconnect between scouts and coaches, you will recall, was what led to the Sharrif Floyd debacle during the 2013 draft. The team reportedly spent a lot of time in the intervening months developing ways for coaches and scouts to get on the same page. The possibility that they are on different pages re: Toomer suggests that there is still more work to be done...